E-mail about releasing cell numbers is a hoax

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Telemarketers won't be given numbers nor will they be allowed to call cell phones.

There's still one way that telemarketers can't annoy you -- through your cell phones.

That's despite an e-mail circulating across cyberspace that warns that it's just a matter of days until telemarketing companies get their hands on our cell phone digits.

"False, it's false," said Mitchell Katz, spokesman for the Federal Trade Commission. "There's nothing to it. We keep hearing about this e-mail and hoping it will blow over. But I guess that's a lot to ask with the Internet."

The e-mail has a subject line of "cell phone info" and claims that in 31 days cell phone numbers will be released to telemarketing companies. The e-mail warns that this means customers will be charged for calls. The e-mail also encourages cell-phone customers to call a number to join the National Do Not Call list and says it will block a cell-phone number for five years.

Local cell phone sellers say they have been getting phone calls from worried customers, but Sprint, Verizon and Cingular all said they don't release cell-phone numbers to anyone.

David Clevenger, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, said it's just a scam.

"Nobody's releasing anybody's phone number to anybody," he said. "We hear about this thing every two months or so, just some e-mail that goes around to everybody. It's a hoax."

Mark Siegel, executive director for media relations with Cingular Wireless, called it "100 percent fiction. ... I don't know where this thing started. It doesn't make any sense."

Katz, the FTC spokesman, said it is not necessary to register phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Directory. Contrary to the e-mail, Katz said, Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers.

Automated dialers, he said, are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling customers on their cell phones without their consent.

While the telecommunications industry has been discussing the possibility of a wireless 411 directory, according to the FCC, even if such a directory were established, most telemarketing calls to cell phones would still be illegal, regardless of whether the number is listed on the federal government's no-call registry. He also said cell-phone customers would not be included in a 411 directory unless they wanted to be.

smoyers@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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